Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teacher incentives fail again

Roland G. Fryer
Working Paper 16850

Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.

Ravitch: Age of Hypocrisy

Ravitch: Actually, it’s an age of hypocrisy and meanness

"In South Carolina, the legislature plans to cut $12 million from funding for physical education and guidance counselors, but managed to find $25 million to fund new charter schools. So, all the children in the state will be less fit so a handful of children can attend privately managed charters. Makes sense, no? Oh, yes, the legislature also found $10 million to pay for a golf tournament. I guess the money isn’t all gone, but priorities have changed."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Letter in SHJ

See Laura Clinton's letter about education legislation in SC, posted at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

Education has now been officially targeted as the "scapegoat" for South Carolina's woes with current legislation in the House and Senate. For example, rather than address the overwhelming influence of poverty and its effect on our state and our children, Rep. Bakari Sellers would like to pass House Bill 3363, The Education Performance Accountability Act of 2011, to classify teaching positions and create a merit system of pay for teachers. A spokesman for our state superintendent feels that teachers should not have input in regards to this bill, as well.

Yes, we have budget challenges, but we should not forget that we are an abundant nation. We could reverse some of the ills of poverty if as much energy and focus was on its eradication — rather than "bash" teachers, administrators and public education as a whole and attempt to revamp an entire system without regard to the evidence or input from those in this system that many feel needs overhauling.

Legislators, let's focus on legislation to fund early childhood: K3 programs on an as-needed basis, K4 programs open to all. Let's address the gap at the beginning of a child's life and seek policies that help more students start on a level playing field. Teachers are not in the field of education primarily for money. Merit pay as an "incentive" to improve education is ineffective according to the research and is an insult to the profession as a whole. 

I invite you to gather with those of us who wish for their voice to be heard at the State House steps on March 31 at 4 p.m. Together, let's work to improve the living conditions for all in our wonderful state and not misrepresent the role of teachers within challenges that include an entire society. 

Laura J. Clinton

Friday, March 18, 2011

18 March 2011 Commentary at The Daily Censored

18 March 2011 Commentary at The Daily Censored: "Test Scores Fail Students, Teachers, But Remain a Political Prop"

Letter challenging charter funding in SHJ

The SC House has approved an appropriation of $25 million in additional funding for the SC Public Charter School district (SCPCSD). State Superintendent Zais claims “[o]ur public charter schools, paid for and supported by state tax dollars, are providing South Carolina students with innovative educational opportunities that meet and often exceed state standards.” The recent release of 2010 school district report cards call these actions and claims into question.

According to the report card data, published at Zais’ agency’s website,, the SCPCSD ranks 77th out of 85 SC districts in absolute performance, with a graduation rate over 45% lower than the median district. While the median district’s art opportunities rating is “excellent,” SCPCSD’s is “poor.” Astoundingly, these results require an average administrators’ salary of over $10,000 more than the median SC district. According to the SCPCSD “[t]he goal of charter schools is to encourage academic excellence, educational improvement and cultural diversity…” In fact, the rate of African-American enrollment in SCPCSD is less than half the median SC district and the poverty index is 10% less. Actually, the disparity in Africa-American enrollment violates the current charter school law in SC.

The charter school experiment in SC should be evaluated thoroughly before any additional legislative support is provided, and, Dr. Zais, the state’s chief school officer, should explain how the results of the SCPCSD are meeting and exceeding those of other public schools.


Glen R. Carson

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Education miracles don't exist. . .and claims hurt reform

Over the past two-plus decades, at least three claims of education "miracle" have been perpetuated in the media and then codified in state and federal education legislation--the Texas miracle, the Harlem miracle, and the Chicago miracle.

What do they all have in common? The claim of miracle always falls apart when the rhetoric and advocacy are peeled back and the evidence is examined.

Some resources for examining the "miracle" phenomenon. . .and this is my call to refute both the claims and the pursuit of miracle at the expense of evidence and needed education reform:

What Do Test Scores in Texas Tell Us? (2000)

Chicago miracle? (2008)

Reconsidering education "miracles" (2010)

The real cost of vouchers/tuition tax credits

Excellent and cautionary report from NEPC concerning the claims about voucher/tuition tax credit costs during tough budget times.

How to Calculate the Costs or Savings of Tax Credit Voucher Policies

Inside Finland's education system

This is an important interview about Finland's school system, BUT even here, the issue of poverty is ignored. Keep in mind that Finland has about 3-4% childhood poverty while the U.S. has over 20% childhood poverty. Also, keep in mind that the U.S. has over 3 million teachers--and Finland has only about 5 million citizens total. Poverty and scale MUST be considered when discussing or comparing Finland and the U.S.

An interview with Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Minister of Education

Monday, March 14, 2011

Education Gathering at SC Statehouse March 31, 2011

Teachers, administrators, parents, students and citizens—

Let your voices be heard in response to current legislation being proposed in the House and Senate:

*Educational Professional Performance Accountability Act of 2011 (H 3363, H 3716 *formerly 3002)

*Funding for public schools (S 433, H 3716)

(Please be aware that these bill numbers could change as they pass through the legislative process.)

Meet at the State House steps in Columbia, SC  at 4:00 on Thursday, March 31st!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beware simple comparisons couched in praise of charters

Letter at The State today offers how complicated the charter advocacy situation is for public schools.

Follow the discussion and see my comment posted there:

Any education success at our schools--regardless of kind (public, private, charter)--deserves praise and celebration. But we must be careful when that praise slips into comparisons that imply policy should reflect some TYPE of schooling as superior to another.

Charter spending often includes hidden differences that we tend to ignore about public schools--which have complex mandates concerning what each public school MUST do.

Spartanburg Charter has a poverty index of about 56 placing it in the TOP 17% of elementary schools in SC--comparable to Blythe Academy in Greenville and Jesse Boyd in Spartanburg, both with better report card ratings but with a more diverse population of students to educate (ELL, notably). Also Spartanburg Charter has a 9-1 student-teacher ratio, compared to 19-1 for Blythe and Jesse Boyd--suggesting many aspects of the setting may be impacting the outcomes, not just raw dollars spent.



Spartanburg Charter exposes a common problem with comparing charters to public schools--populations of students served, including ELL and special needs students.

The BULK of increased education spending in public schools over the past half century can be traced to special needs and ELL costs, which public schools MUST address and charter schools often don't.

We can applaud Spartanburg Charter without suggesting an incomplete and misleading conclusion that the school does more with less money (this claim about private schools remains, but is untrue as well).

13 March 2011 Commentary in OpEdNews

13 March 2011 Commentary in OpEdNews: "'A Question of Power': Of Accountability and Teaching by Numbers"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rebuttal to Misinformation from Rep. Stringer

Rep. Stringer has a misleading Op-Ed at The Greenville News, reprinted at SCRG (a political think tank that advocates school choice).

PLEASE contact Rep. Springer HERE.

One notable comment from Stringer--"They missed the fact that life itself is a test"--is worth addressing directly. Life is NOT a multiple choice test.

The claims that lead to his arguments are all provably misleading; thus, the conclusions are suspect.

I posted this rebuttal online at TGN:

The PISA claim here is FALSE, oversimplified misinformation. When POVERTY is considered, the US has test scores that exceed countries with similar levels of poverty. FACT:

For example, Finland has about 3-4% childhood poverty while the US has well over 20% childhood poverty. SCHOOL OUTCOMES REFLECT PRIMARILY SOCIAL CONDITIONS--not teacher or school quality. (

As well, public, private, charter, and choice schools all produce ABOUT THE SAME RESULTS. Ample evidence shows that none of the formats are superior to the others. Most comprehensive study on choice available today: "In this article, we review the empirical evidence on the impact of education vouchers on student achievement, and briefly discuss the evidence from other forms of school choice. The best research to date finds relatively small achievement gains for students offered education vouchers, most of which are not statistically different from zero." (

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Education as burden

Freire (2005):

If studying were not almost always a burden [emphasis in original] to us, if reading were not a bitter obligation, if, on the contrary, studying and reading were sources of pleasure and happiness as well as sources of the knowledge we need to better move about the world, we would have indexes that were more indicative of the quality of our education. (p. 45)

Freire, P. (2005). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach. Trans. D. Macedo, D., Koike, & A., Oliveira. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

The Increasing Burden on America's Schools, Jamie Vollmer

The Increasing Burden on America's Schools
Schools cannot do this alone by Jamie Vollmer

America’s public schools can be traced back to the year 1640. The Massachusetts Puritans established schools to:
  • Teach basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, and
  • Cultivate values that serve a democratic society (some history and civics implied).
The creators of these first schools assumed that families and churches bore the major responsibility for raising a child. The responsibility of the school was limited and focused for 260 years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, society began to assign additional responsibilities to the schools. Politicians, business leaders, and policy makers began to see the schools as a logical site for the assimilation of newly arrived immigrants and the social engineering of the first generation of the “Industrial Age." The trend of increasing the responsibilities of the public schools began then and has accelerated ever since.
  • From 1900 to 1910, we added
  • nutrition
  • immunization, and
  • health to the list of school responsibilities.
  • From 1920 to 1940, we added
  • vocational education
  • the practical arts
  • business education
  • speech and drama
  • half day kindergarten
  • Phys. Ed. including organized athletics, and
  • school lunch programs (We take this for granted today. It was, however, a significant step to shift to the schools the job of feeding America's children 1/3 of their daily meals.)
  • In the 1950's, we added
  • safety education
  • driver's education
  • expanded music and art education
  • foreign language requirements are strengthened, and
  • sex education introduced (topics escalate through 1990's)
  • In the 1960's, we added
  • Advanced Placement programs
  • consumer education
  • career education
  • peace education
  • leisure education, and
  • recreation education
  • In the 1970's, the breakup of the American family accelerated, and we added
  • special education (mandated by federal government)
  • Title IX programs (greatly expanded athletic program for girls)
  • drug and alcohol abuse education
  • Head Start
  • parent education
  • behavior adjustment classes
  • character education
  • environmental education, and
  • school breakfast programs appear (Now, some schools are feeding America's children 2/3 of their daily meals. Sadly, these are the only decent meals some children receive.)
  • In the 1980's the flood gates open, and we add
  • keyboarding and computer education
  • global education
  • ethnic education
  • multicultural/non-sexist education
  • English-as-a-second-language, and bilingual education
  • early childhood education
  • Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start, and Prime Start
  • full day kindergarten
  • pre-school programs for children at risk
  • afer school programs for children of working parents
  • alternative education in all its forms
  • stranger/danger education
  • anti-smoking education
  • sexual abuse prevention education
  • health and psychological services are expanded, and
  • child abuse monitoring becomes a legal requirement for all teachers
  • In the 1990's we added
  • HIV/ AIDS education
  • death education
  • expanded computer and Internet education
  • inclusion
  • Tech Prep and School to work programs
  • gang education (in urban centers)
  • bus safety education
  • bicycle safety education, and
  • gun safety education
And in most states we have not added a single minute to the school calendar in five decades!

All of the items added to the list have merit, and all have their ardent supporters. They cannot, however, all be assigned to the schools.

The people of each community must come together to answer two essential questions: What do they want their children to know and be able to do when they graduate, and how can the entire community be organized to ensure that all children reach the stated goals.

The bottom line: schools cannot do it all.  Schools cannot raise America's children. 

Public education has prepared millions of people from all classes and backgrounds to catch the American dream. Over the last twenty years, public schools have heroically responded to a rising flood of expectations ­ they are teaching more students more subjects to higher levels in more creative and dynamic ways than ever before. 

Unfortunately, the system was designed for another age and there is a gap growing between what schools provide and what students need. We must significantly change what, when, and how children are taught if we are going to close this gap. Teachers and administrators everywhere are struggling to make these changes, but they cannot succeed without the understanding, trust, permission, and support of the local community. 

The time has come for every school district to organize a community-wide conversation that results in a shared commitment to create public schools that provide a high quality education for all. We must 1) Stop bad-mouthing and blaming. 2) Shift from negative discussions to positive stories 3) Share success stories that come from everyday miracles in public schools.   

Monitor the conversations and ask your staff and community members to volunteer and share at least three stories a week.  It cost nothing and requires no extra work.

Pay incentives do not work, again--New York

Study: $75M teacher pay initiative did not improve achievement

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sound familiar?

Consider this discussion of U.S. public education:
For while schools everywhere reflect to some extent the culture of which they are a part and respond to forces within that culture, the American public schools, because of the nature of their pattern of organization, support, and control, were especially vulnerable and responded quickly to the strongest social forces. . . .The business influence was exerted upon education in several ways: through newspapers, journals, and books; through speeches at educational meetings; and, more directly, through actions of school boards. It was exerted by laymen, by professional journalists, by businessmen or industrialists either individually or in groups. . ., and finally by educators themselves. Whatever its source, the influence was exerted in the form of suggestions or demands that the schools be organized and operated in a ore businesslike way and that more emphasis by placed upon a practical and immediately useful education.
In 2011, does this sound familiar? Maybe even a reference to Waiting for Superman, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Arne Duncan? This is in fact from Callahan (1962, pp. 1, 5-6) who recognized the corrosive impact of efficiency on attitudes toward the teaching profession--attitudes that have resulted in praise for scripted curriculum, attacks on teacher quality, and calls for increasing class sizes:
The tragedy itself was fourfold: that educational questions were subordinated to business considerations; that administrators were produced who were not, in any true sense, educators; that a scientific label was put on some very unscientific and dubious methods and practices; and that an anti-intellectual climate, already prevalent, was strengthened. (p. 246)

The whole development produced men who did not understand education or scholarship. Thus they could and did approach education in a businesslike, mechanical, organizational way. They saw nothing wrong with imposing impossible loads on high school teachers, because they were not students or scholars and did not understand the need for time for study and preparation. (p. 247)
Callahan, R. E. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Three important pieces

Three important pieces: "Building Better Kids [cited study HERE] 'Waiting for Superman' at Mission High (Part 1) 'Waiting for Superman' at Mission High, Part 2"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Important distinction about evaluating teacher quality

Key discussion here about value-added assessment of INDIVIDUAL teachers. Note these comments specifically:

"And, unfortunately, they are not alone. I hear people – including policymakers – advocate constantly for the use of value-added in teacher evaluations or other high-stakes decisions by saying that 'research shows' that there are huge differences between 'good' and 'bad' teachers.

"This overall variation is a very important finding, but for policy purposes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can differentiate between the good, the bad, and the average at the level of individual teachers. How we should do so is an open question.

"Conflating the importance of teacher quality with the ability to measure it carries the risk of underemphasizing all the methodological and implementation details – such as random error, model selection, and data verification – that will determine whether value-added plays a productive role in education policy."

Teacher pay bill being considered in SC

H. 3363

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1 March 2011 Commentary at OpEdNews

1 March 2011 Commentary at OpEdNews: "Ironic Lessons in Education Reform from Bill Gates"

Update: Merit pay bill in SC


It appeared that House Bill 3363 Educational Professional Performance and Pay Accountability Act of
2011 (details below) would not be discussed until after the House
debates the budget in March, but it was placed on a subcommittee agenda.  IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO CALL AND EMAIL THE MEMBERS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE WITH YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT THIS BILL.

Subcommittee Contact Info:

Representative Brian White
Columbia Address:
519C Blatt Building
Columbia, 29201
(803) 734-3113

Representative Joe Neal
Columbia Address:
309B Blatt Bldg.
Columbia, 29201
(803) 734-2804

Representative Mike Pitts
Columbia Address:
327C Blatt Bldg.
Columbia, 29201
(803) 734-2830

Representative Bill Herbkersman
Columbia Address:
308B Blatt Bldg.
Columbia, 29201
(803) 734-3063

House Bill 3363 by Rep. Sellars – The Education Professional Performance
Accountability Act of 2011 has been introduced and sent to the House
Ways and Means Committee. This bill includes the following points:

- Personnel will be classified and paid based on what they do:

Pay Classification

1: Math and Science teachers
2:  All other teachers
3:  Special Ed teachers
4:  Coaches and facilitators
5: Special area personnel such as psychologists, media and
6:  Administrative personnel
7:  Support staff

-All teachers will go through SAFE-T (ADEPT) every year
4 evaluations (2 teacher, 2 administrator) for 50% of your score

-Pre and post test data for your students (probably MAP 75% class
growth) - 30% of your score for pay

-School collective test data - 10 % of your pay

-Professional responsibility - 5% of your pay (parents and students
will be part of the evaluation process)

-Professional development measured by instructional practices - 5%
of your score for pay

To view the full bill, go to:

PSTA will testify against this bill on Wednesday afternoon.  It is SO
important that your teacher voices are heard on this issue.  Start
calling after school today.  The subcommittee members will not be coming
to Columbia until Tuesday morning so you have time to reach them in
their districts.
(see more info below on HB 3363)

House Bill 3716 (previously 3002) is on the House calendar and could be
debated as early as Tuesday. This bill amends the Education Finance Act
of 1977- to the Education Finance Act of 2011. The bill allows for
changes in the student weightings and added a weight for Poverty and
English as a Second Language (ESOL). Language pertaining to the STEP
increase will be removed and STEP increases will only be provided at the
district’s discretion. The SDE is directed to develop a performance
based model for salary increases to replace the STEP increase. The bill
addresses the Index of Taxpaying Ability. Seventy percent (70%) of
funding must be directed to instruction. The bill also includes a Basic
Education Program that allows the General Assembly to consolidate line
items in the budget and provide a more direct student centered funding
to the districts. The items include, but are not limited to: EEDA, EAA,
Student Health and Fitness Act, physical education programs, units
required by SBE regulations in each grade leveteaching of grade-specific standards.

Representative Dan Cooper, at the request of PSTA, put an amendment to
the bill that assures that there is teacher input in the development of
an incentive compensation plan for teachers. You must get in touch with
your House member and ask them to make sure the section that allows
teacher input in developing the performance pay stays in the bill. A
spokesman for Superintendent Zais has testified and spoken to the media
against having a committee of teachers mandated in the bill. You can
read the response here: